Dirty Dozen: Significant and Avoidable Mistakes Teens Make During The College Search June 11th, 2011 | No Comments

So quick and to the point, here are the problems… Next post:  Solutions!

1.  Not knowing the parts of the search and selection process In my experience, too many teens and their parents believe that the information provided by the high school guidance department is all they need to know about choosing the colleges that are the best matches-not by a long shot!  You need to find out the big picture by reading books, visiting websites, talking with professionals… advisors, coaches.

2.  Too tight a timeframe for process Start their college search in fall of your junior year.  While it doesn’t need to take a year or longer to complete the process, it sure is nice to know that there’s plenty of time to get it all done!  ANd, if you haven’t started yet, don’t fret, start now!

3.  Not knowing self To show your best self you need to explore and be able to speak clearly and concisely about your strengths, challenges, learning and social needs and preferences.  I use the strengths test on www.authentichappiness.com with the teens I coach… and they LOVE it!  Not only do they learn to see themselves in a different light, they can use the new knowledge to tackle some of the challenges they will face.  Understanding your academic and social needs, preferences and challenges will also help you make the right choices in seeking and choosing colleges

4.  Not enough talking with trusted adults Communication needs to be open and often between you and your parents…  about what matters-goals, interests, worries, money, timelines, milestones, testing, and moving from home, to name some of the key areas.

5.  Falling prey to media hype There’s such a swirl of information and hysteria about the college admissions process… Be careful what’s listened to, look closely at what’s being said, and consider the sources.

6.  Listening to others (not to be confused with not enough talking with trusted adults) Some teens (or sometimes the people in their lives) think they should go where their mom, dad, best friend or favorite teachers went to college… I’d say think again!  While the suggestion may be a good fit… be sure that your are looking through your own eyes and not someone else’s.

7.  Lack of planning To feel comfortable you need to start the process in the fall of their junior year-and if you are in the arts or sports then you must be thinking about the process even earlier…My interview with Kathleen Suss, executive director of Concordia Conservatory of Music and Art, which aired the week of June June 6 , 2011 (listen here) explains these special circumstances.  And, if you have any special learning needs, starting the college search and selection process early is critical.  Susan Howarth, in another interview with me on College Bound and Determined, (check the archives), shares great information about supporting teens with learning differences.
8.  Lack of organization Taking on any new task requires a re-thinking of how to organize: this is a project of enormous proportions. You might want and need some support.  I work with teens to discover their way of organizing and build on their skills rather than imposing mine.

9.  Not enough research – “unthoughtful choices ”                                                                                 This particular mistakes is related to several others

  • Not knowing all the steps on the path of this marathon
  • Listening to others who offer suggestions about where to go – and thereby avoiding research
Feeling nervous and so avoiding any tasks when increase worry and concern
  • Lack of experience with such a large task so that it feels like it’s just to big to get their arms around

10.  Not visiting colleges If you have the opportunity to visit a college or all the colleges on your list, should do it!How many time have you heard me say, “should”?  My question is, “How can you apply to a college that you haven’t visited?  How do you know what it feels like?”  To me, and I may be biased, because I love going places, but visiting schools is one of the most fun parts of the process-or at least it can be!  It’s an opportunity for you to check out the possiblities-campuses, students, classes, the food, student activities, the surrounding areas.

11. Submitting less than stellar essays This is your opportunity to really share who you are, and so the essays require a lot of brainstorming, planning, writing and revising. One essay expert I know suggests eight to ten drafts of the essays.

12.  Getting lackluster letters of recommendation from teachers Teens often think that teachers that like them will give them great letters of recommendation and while that might be true it’s not the criteria to use when choosing a writer.  Teachers, coaches, counselors that write letters need solid information from you:  Why did you choose those particular colleges, what are your areas of strength, and your growth over the course of high school career in the writer’s area of knowledge.  The letters need to be customized and writer’s can’t do that if they don’t have the specifics about the school.  I’ve devoted a section of a show, which is now in the archives, to getting great letters of recommendation.

13.  Not interviewing
What a lost opportunity! It’s another way in which to shine – show the admissions office personnel that you are so much more than the paperwork.  In my coaching work, I always suggest that teens prepare, practice and partake of interviews!

Next post:  The Flip Side to the Dirty Dozen Mistakes… Finding and Following the Easier Path to College

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